A stunned fisherman caught an intersex Pacific spadenose shark earlier this year off the southern Taiwan Strait.
According to the Daily Mail:
At first it appeared to be a fully grown male, with a developed pair of penis-like appendages called claspers that extend from the pelvic fin.
But a study of the animal’s interns found it had a complete pair of ovotestes – gonads that contain both ovarian and testicular tissue.
Making it part of the wonderfully diverse undersea LGBTQIA community, joining terrestrial slugs, marine flatworms, and the cross-dressing Australian giant cuttlefish.
While many fish have the ability to switch genders, sharks develop permanent male or female organs before birth, making intersex specimens a rarity.
Little is known about shark reproduction, but researchers have suggested that intersexuality could explain why some sharks can give birth ‘asexually’.
‘[Sharks] can give birth without mating – like virgin birth. The question is: Why?’ Dr Chris Lowe, a scientist at California State University, Long Beach, told Hakai magazine.
Intersexuality may be related to this ability of some sharks to give birth to a clone, he said.
‘We just don’t know enough about shark biology to be able to answer those questions,’ Dr Lowe added
Scientists at China’s Xiamen University found that each of the shark’s genitals were fully formed, meaning the animal could have functioned as either sex reproductively. This makes the find the rarest type of intersexuality in sharks as most cases have sex organs that are only partially formed. And the first of its species! Pretty cool!